Former WWE creative team member Jimmy Jacobs recalls that Triple H was not initially a fan of the Festival of Friendship segment between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho.
Amidst a successful independent wrestling career that saw him work for Ring of Honor and many other promotions, Jimmy Jacobs was hired as part of the WWE creative team in 2015. He would work there until he was released from the company in 2017.
During his time with WWE, Jacobs was credited with creating the “List of Jericho,” a list that Chris Jericho added to every time someone annoyed him on the program. During this time, Chris Jericho formed an alliance with Kevin Owens, with the two claiming to be best friends.
Jacobs also produced the infamous Festival of Friendship segment that saw Kevin Owens turn on his so-called best friend after months of being partners on Monday Night Raw.
Speaking on Jofo in the Ring, Jimmy Jacobs revealed his original version of the segment that was different to what ended up taking place on the night as Vince McMahon had a different vision.
“Yeah, I produced that. Some of that was Vince’s vision. I saw a little bit more I wanted different people coming in. I wanted it to be a little bit more like The Rock/Mick Foley This is Your Life. Because you need some conflict, right? You need somebody for Jericho to shit on.
“I had an idea of like, you bring out like these two old friends ‘Herb and Marv,’ and Jericho is like, ‘See, these guys are amazing friends. They’re 90 years old. They’ve had a friendship for 70 years. We can we could have a friendship like that have. That’s like our friendship and Herb goes. ‘Oh, yes, me and Marv are the best of friends.’
“Jericho takes offense to that and goes, ‘I’m sorry. But the best of friends. No, no, Kevin and Chris are the best friends. Jericho and Owens are the best of friends. You know what happens when you think you’re better friends than Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens…’ Jericho puts like old people on the list. Like that was my vision for it, which I thought would have been a little better.”
The former WWE creative member went on to explain how Vince McMahon’s vision was different to his own, wanting there to be gifts involved in the segment.
“Vince’s vision was, Chris gives Kevin presents. I thought that was a little like, ‘Huh, what are you gonna do with that?’ Then I go well, so basically, the presents have to not land. Kevin has to not like them because you need conflict in there somewhere. But yeah, so I ended up taking Vince’s general vision. Then, you know, writing it and rewriting it.”
Jimmy Jacobs doesn’t remember with certainty who had the initial idea for Kevin Owens to put Chris Jericho’s name on The List, but recalls that he knew that had to be the hook of the segment once the idea was presented.
“I don’t remember whose idea that was. That, I think that might have been Kevin’s idea. Actually, I think that was Kevin’s idea.
“It’s interesting because you say that’s the iconic part. I agree. There’s some fun stuff in it. But to me, the drama was always going to be when Chris gets excited because ‘Oh, a new list,’ and he looks at the list, and he goes, ‘Why is my name on here?’ Then he turns it around and that moment where he realizes his best friend stabbed him in the back.
“That’s the Shakespeare, man. Like that’s it. It’s that moment, the moment he realizes he’s about to be betrayed, that is the Shakespeare.”
Jacobs went on to recount that Vince McMahon was absent from that episode of Monday Night Raw and that Triple H thought the idea of Kevin Owens putting Jericho’s name on The List was too goofy for Owens, with whom The Game had worked closely for some time.
“We’re in Vegas, the day of, Vince wasn’t there that day. Triple H was in charge and Triple H did not like all the Chris Jericho/Kevin Owens stuff because Kevin Owens was a Triple H guy, and Jericho was a little goofy for Hunter. You have seen that in NXT when Hunter was in charge, and it was all serious stuff.
“I think Triple H saw Kevin being muddled in this goofiness as not good for Kevin. So Hunter wanted to just have like, in the middle of, you know, Kevin starts to cut a promo, ‘Hey, Chris, I realize you tried to do all this nice stuff, and I appreciate it,’ and then Kevin just jumps up attacks. Like Hunter hated the whole List of KO, he’s like, ‘This is so goofy, wouldn’t it be better if he just jumps in.’
Jimmy Jacobs recalled being frustrated in the production meeting but knowing that Chris Jericho would eventually go to Vince McMahon to have the segment play out the way the Chairman and he wanted.
“I remember being in the production meeting like, wanting to lose it. I was like, I know like Jericho will take care of this. Jericho, he’s not gonna stand for this. Even though Hunter’s the boss that day like Jericho will go to Vince. That’s what happened.
“So that was a weird day, there was a lot of tension there.
Despite the tension, Jacobs made it clear that this is simply a matter of different opinions and not of finger pointing toward any party in particular.
“Look, this happens. This isn’t to point fingers at Triple H and say, ‘Oh, you’re wrong,’ or you’re bad or anything like that. It’s just to say people have different views on things. It was scary for me creatively. To go, ‘Oh, no, we might lose the moment of the whole thing. Because someone else has a different creative vision.’
“I’m glad that, you know, Vince came through and you know, eventually Hunter sort of said, ‘Alright, do what you guys were gonna do.’ It was a frickin’ home run. I think Hunter really likes it at the end, I don’t think he saw what it was going to be before that. But once he saw it, I mean, it was a frickin’ home run. That was for me — when that promo was over, that was the highlight of my WWE career for sure.”
The Festival of Friendship went on to be one of the most iconic segments in WWE history and led to a United States Championship match between Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 33. Despite the excellent build and it featuring two of the top performers in the company, Chris Jericho revealed that Vince McMahon once called it the “worst match in WrestleMania history.”